Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What’s a little rain at CMAC?


What’s a little rain at CMAC?

Finger Lakes Times

HOPEWELL — Safe underneath the shell, Jim Sabo barely felt a drop from the downpour that slammed Monday night’s RatDog concert at the Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center.

The Rittman, Ohio, mortgage broker was sitting comfortably in his eighth-row seat while the storm drenched a few thousand concert-goers on the hill during The String Cheese Incident’s opening act.

“We never really felt anything, just a few drops,” Sabo, 58, said a few minutes after former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and his band finished their encore.

With a few lightning strikes in the distance, the rain was coming down so hard that CMAC operators decided a few moments before RatDog came on stage to invite the lawn-ticketholders underneath the 5,000-seat shell.

“Come on in, everyone. Let’s have some fun,” WCMF disc jockey Dave Kane told the crowd. “There’s no rush. The band is waiting to come out. Be nice. Take your time. Get out of the rain.”

Within a few minutes, the remaining seats were full and an overflow crowd made its way into the aisles.

Sabo, a veteran of about 30 Dead concerts or shows featuring former members of the 1960s jam-band, had driven about six hours to get to Monday’s concert. He didn’t realize it was the first major concert in the brand new site, which opened last month.

“[Weir] and the Dead helped me get off alcohol,” Sabo said. “I took my last drink 24 years ago.”

With the lyrics, “I will get by. I will survive,” it was almost like Jerry Garcia had him in mind when he penned the Dead song, “A Touch of Grey.”

“Now I come to these concerts, and it’s just me,” he said. “I don’t need that other stuff. I have a great time.”

Before the storm and the music began, Chris Tay, 23, of Canandaigua, was trying to occupy her 20-month-old son, Aidan, and it wasn’t easy keeping up with him as the little blond boy with a tie-dyed shirt, brown shorts and sandals wanted to run down the steep hill.

“My date stood me up,” Tay joked. “My husband had to work late, so I brought him. It’s his first concert. He’s my date tonight.”

Aidan noticed three women in their early 20s a short distance away, playing with giant Hula-Hoops they’d made out of irrigation pipe and colored duct tape.

“I saw someone else with Hula-Hoops at other concerts and I wanted to make my own,” said Megan Caron, 21, of Ithaca.

Gavin Levy, 23, and his roommate, Evan Baker, have been traveling on tour with The String Cheese Incident. But the recent college grads, from Boulder, Colo., aren’t this generation’s Dead Heads. They’re manning a tent for The Conscious Alliance, a Colorado-based non-profit that collects food for the hungry at concerts across the country.

Anyone who donates 10 food items or $10 gets a poster designed by Los Angeles artist Michael Brown, Levy said, adding that at a concert at Red Rock in Colorado they collected 4,000 food items and $7,200 in donations.

“The String Cheese Incident have been great to us,” he said. “They’ve treated us well. We get to sleep in their hotel rooms when they leave.”

Under the Shell, members of the mostly 20something, hippie-wannabe crowd were on their feet, their arms swirling around and heads bopping up and down in tribal-like improvisational dance. Many of the women wore colorful peasant skirts and dresses that swayed to the rhythm of the music, while some of the T-shirt-clad guys in the crowd partied.

Police arrested four out-of-town people on drug charges in the parking lot before the concert began.

By the time everything was sung and done, a drained-looking Sabo had made up his mind that he was waiting till morning to drive home. He and a friend were going to look for a motel room for the night.

“It’s late,” he said, making his way through the crowd to get to their car.

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